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Russia: Soviet Doctrine
Country Study > Chapter 9 > The Armed Forces > Military Doctrine > Soviet Doctrine


The Soviet Union's first military doctrine was based on the teachings of Vladimir I. Lenin about defense of the socialist homeland and on the military theories of Civil War general Mikhail Frunze. Starting in the early 1920s, doctrine underwent a series of changes in response to geopolitical and economic conditions. After World War II, Stalin introduced the concept of two mutually irreconcilable international coalitions -- the capitalist and the socialist -- that inevitably would come into armed conflict. In the 1950s, the Soviet acquisition of nuclear weapons added a new dimension to Stalin's postwar concept of a massive, combined-arms struggle on the fields of Europe. Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev (in office 1953-64) saw adequate nuclear deterrence as a guarantee that socialism would be able to advance in peace toward its inevitable triumph. Based on that theory, he shifted support from conventional forces to a new military group, the nuclear-armed strategic rocket forces. However, in this period the Soviet military establishment argued for the use of nuclear weapons in fighting, rather than preventing, a war -- including the initiation of nuclear attack. In the 1960s, that idea was refined with the addition of small-scale nuclear strikes and a renewed emphasis on conventional warfare. By 1970 the doctrine envisioned two major possibilities: an entirely conventional war or a nuclear war fought between the Soviet Union and the United States solely in Western and Central Europe.

In the 1970s and the 1980s, military thinkers continued to question the military efficacy of nuclear weapons, although official doctrine assumed that the Soviet Union could win a nuclear war. In this period, the concept of a nonnuclear, high-technology global war, advanced by Chief of the General Staff Marshal Nikolay Ogarkov, attracted substantial support. By the late 1980s, military doctrine had begun to evolve toward a defensive concept of "reasonable sufficiency" of military force to ensure national security but not to initiate offensive operations. At the behest of the Soviet Union, in 1987 the Warsaw Pact officially adopted a defense-oriented military doctrine and called for reductions in conventional arms in Europe.

Data as of July 1996

Last Updated: July 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Russia was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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